US Italy-based soldiers walk in Denim Day anti-sexual assault event
VICENZA, Italy — Scores of jeans- and T-shirt clad soldiers turned out for Caserma Ederle’s annual Denim Day walk on Wednesday.
The soldiers, many of whom are with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, mostly had some idea why they were there.
“We’re showing our support for those who’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted,” said Staff Sgt. Joel England. “I remember doing it at (Ft.) Bragg.”
What denim or jeans had to do with it, though, was unclear, until a jeans-wearing colonel gave them the rundown.
Denim Day got its start in protest of a 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned the rape conviction of a 45-year-old driving instructor who attacked a teenager the day of her first lesson. The male justices said in their ruling that the girl’s tight jeans would have been impossible for the instructor to remove without her assistance, so it was consensual.
The day after the decision, women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans and holding placards that read “Jeans: An Alibi for Rape.”
California legislators and others appalled by the decision did likewise to show support. The next year, the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women decided to make it an annual event to protest against sexual violence and the rape myths that help enable it.
By 2011, at least 20 U.S. states had officially recognized Denim Day in April, with participants numbering in the millions.
This was Caserma Ederle’s third year for the walk, sponsored by the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention office. The walk itself took about five minutes, from the parade ground to the athletic field, where SHARP memorabilia, quizzes and games had been set up.